Bermuda 2


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Hamilton Harbour in the mid-1920s

In the early 20th century, as modern transport and communication systems developed, Bermuda became a popular destination for American, Canadian and British tourists arriving by sea. The US Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which enacted protectionist trade tariffs on goods imported into the US, led to the demise of Bermuda’s once-thriving agricultural export trade to America and encouraged development of tourism as an alternative source of income. The island was one of the centers for illegal alcohol smuggling during the era of Prohibition in the United States (1920–1933).

A rail line was constructed in Bermuda in the 1920s, opening in 1931 as the Bermuda Railway. Although popular, its high operating costs and the introduction of automobiles to the islands doomed the line, which was abandoned in 1948. The right of way is now the Bermuda Railway Trail.

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Winston Churchill hosted the Three-Powers Summit in 1953

In 1930, after several failed attempts, a Stinson Detroiter seaplane flew to Bermuda from New York City, the first airplane ever to reach the islands. The flight was not without incident, as the aircraft had to land twice in the ocean, once because of darkness and again when it needed to refuel. Navigation and weather forecasting improved in 1933 when the Royal Air Force (then responsible for providing equipment and personnel for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm) established a station at the Royal Naval Dockyard to repair float planes (and supply replacements) for the fleet. In 1936, Luft Hansa began to experiment with seaplane flights from Berlin via the Azores with continuation flights to New York City.

In 1937, Imperial Airways and Pan American Airways began operating scheduled flying boat airline services from New York and Baltimore to Darrell’s Island, Bermuda. In World War II the Hamilton Princess Hotel became a censorship center. All mail, radio and telegraphic traffic bound for Europe, the US and the Far East was intercepted and analyzed by 1,200 censors, of British Imperial Censorship, part of British Security Coordination (BSC), before being routed to their destination. With BSC working closely with the FBI, the censors were responsible for the discovery and arrest of a number of Axis spies operating in the US, including the Joe K ring. In 1948, a regularly scheduled commercial airline service began to operate, using land-based airplanes landing at Kindley Field (now L.F. Wade International Airport), helping tourism to reach a peak in the 1960s and 1970s. By the end of the 1970s, however, international business had supplanted tourism as the dominant sector of Bermuda’s economy.

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The SS Queen of Bermuda in Hamilton Harbour, c. Dec 1952 / Jan 1953

The Royal Naval Dockyard and its attendant military garrison remained important to Bermuda’s economy until the mid-20th century. In addition to considerable building work, the armed forces needed to source food and other materials from local vendors. Beginning in World War II, US military installations were also located in Bermuda, including a naval air station and submarine base along with US Army air, anti-aircraft, and coast artillery forces. The Army forces were under the Bermuda Base Command during the war, with some shifting and renaming of bases between the US Army, Navy, and Air Force after the war. The American military presence lasted until 1995.

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